Being asked to join the StalkSport writing team is a real pleasure and being the Palace fan that I am, my debut article has to be about my first sporting love.
Have no fear though, I will rarely touch on my club going forward, or indeed the game of football. There will be the odd occasion that I will feel compelled to write about the game but the freedom of being able to pick up on other sports is a real distraction from my usual articles.
Crystal Palace are my first sporting love. They have been a part of me as much as my family since first going to a game in late eighties. I had a later interest in football, my short attention span prevented me from sitting down and watching a whole game on television until I was about 14. As a kid, I had dabbled in supporting a couple of other clubs who shall remain nameless but neither were serious. Just flirtations.
The club from SE25 are enjoying quite a remarkable time at the moment. Two consecutive seasons in the Premier League and looking forward to a third.
I say Premier League, but contrary to what is reported by Sky Sports, the game of football did in fact take place before the rebrand, so Crystal Palace have had a similar run in the top flight. Why do Sky continually quote goalscoring and appearance records from just the Premier League? Surely that is an insult to all the players that have every played the game B.S. (before Sky).
Anyway, I digress.
It is true though, Palace have not enjoyed such a period of success with such a bright outlook for a very long time, maybe even ever. There is a constant comparison to our team of the nineties which easily out performed our team of the eighties. These pet tags are a hindrance as it is deemed they actually mean something.
That was our last golden period. Promoted to the old First Division after seeing off Swindon Town in the play off semi finals and then Blackburn Rovers in the two legged play off final in 1989. It was far from straight-forward as we lost the first leg at Ewood Park 3-1 loss. A late Eddie McGoldrick goal gave us real hope for the return at 2-1 only for the home side to score a third. Many thought that was it and we had blown our third place finish.
That second leg still sits fondly in the memories of every fan that attended the game. A 3-0 win ended with a pitch invasion of pure elation. The Eagles were back in the big time.
A stay in the top division the following season was a big achievement for that side. It could have been so much better as a narrow FA Cup Final replay defeat against Manchester United put us so close to glory, yet so far. However, the result of that season was the 4-3 defeat of Liverpool in the semi final at Villa Park especially after a disastrous 9-0 loss at Anfield in the league, we were given not a hope.
That was not it for that team. A Wembley triumph not long after to win the old Full Members Cup which was named the Zenith Data Systems Cup. Yes, it was a thing back then and more impressively we beat Everton 4-1 to win the trophy in style. That was followed up with a third place finish but European competition was out of the question as English clubs had been banned thanks to Liverpool.
The underdog tag has always suited us but we are on the threshold of shaking that tag off.
Fast forward 25 years and we find Palace in an arguably better position. Dare I say it, a club that are establishing themselves in the Premier League after two seasons finishing 11th and 10th.
Some may ridicule the suggestion that the time is now for Palace but I really do think it is. I am not suggesting that we are going to be title challengers but this is a time where the club finds itself with a profile higher than it has ever been before particularly with the huge interest in the Premier League brand across the world.
It is the perfect time to be looking for a new shirt sponsor after the news that Neteller could not fulfil its three year deal after just one season. It gives the club the perfect bargaining position and I fully expect us to take full advantage of that.
The untold riches in the top division of English football are no secret. Many teams have tried but failed to stick around. Now is the time for a club like Palace to dare to dream and for fans to start looking up rather than behind.
Too many fans are stuck on the hype surrounding our well publicised money problems a little over five years ago which put the club on the brink of extinction. Many even harp back to the days of the early nineties to make unfair comparisons to the current crop of players.
The game is very different now. It is very much money orientated but Palace have their place to play their part and not only one that is in tune with the local community and the on-going connection with the fans that flock to Selhurst Park every week.
This summer will be interesting. One in which we expect to see if our approach to the future has changed. Which direction the manager and owners decide to lead us towards.
Do we sign the likes of Yohan Cabaye and Loic Remy from Paris Saint Germain and Chelsea and by doing so, making a statement? Or do we do the opposite by selling the likes of Scott Dann and Yannick Bolasie and continue to be a selling club when we are on the fringes of establishing ourselves as a serious top flight team?
Last season suggested that we are on the road to something new. The intent to go out and get Alan Pardew from Newcastle United was a clear sign things were changing. Our approach to being a club at the top table was to go out and pay compensation for a manager which is something we had not done in some time.
With Pardew firmly at the helm and a summer for him instil his beliefs and make a real mark on the already talented squad of players is exciting. I just hope that the Palace fans back the club this summer in whatever decisions it makes in an effort to achieve even bigger rewards and continue building the towards that much bigger picture.